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Palestinians react to Soleimani assassination with indifference towards Iran, anger towards America

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Sitting in a coffee shop in Bethlehem, local tour guide Marwan Fararja, 50, is glued to his phone.

“Iran has retaliated against America, firing missiles at US military bases in Iraq,” the voice of a newscaster speaking in Arabic blares from his phone.

The voices coming from Fararja’s phone join a chorus of others playing from the phone of the bartender, and another group of young men sitting at the next table.

“God protect us,” Fararja mumbles solemnly, resting his head on his hand.

The scene at the cafe has been a common one in Palestine over the past week, as tensions continue to rise between the US and Iran.

While the situation in the occupied territory has remained relatively quiet in response to the US assassination of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani, the tension being felt across the Middle East and the globe can most certainly be felt here.

“Even if it’s not directly affecting us, most people are paying attention to what is happening around us,” Fararja told Mondoweiss.

In his opinion, not many Palestinians are particularly “passionate” about or supportive of Iran as a country, “but we are more concerned about the action of an American president, specifically Trump, ordering the assassination of such an important figure.”

“It is wrong, and it shows that America wants war.”

Fararja, like many ordinary Palestinian citizens, isn’t too bent up about the killing of Soleimani himself, as much he is concerned about the geopolitical ramifications of America’s actions.

“As Arabs, it’s a tough thing to witness,” he said. “The situation in the Middle East — after ISIS and what happened in Syria — it seemed like things were improving for the better, and we were headed for a more peaceful time.”

“So for the Americans to go and do this, it just shows that all they want for the Middle East is constant war and violence and oppression, so long as they can continue to control us and our resources, and pursue their agendas here,” he continued.

In a nearby refugee camp, Nagm al-Jaf, an Iraqi Kurdish woman married to a Palestinian man, hasn’t turned away from the news for days.

“I have so much to say, but I don’t know where to start,” she told Mondoweiss from her living room.

“As an Iraqi woman, with a sense of sadness and urgency, all I ask for is peace for the Iraqi people — we have been through enough,” she said.

The last thing the Iraqi people need or want, al-Jaf says, is a war between two other countries to shed more blood on Iraqi soil.

When asked what she thinks about American aggression and imperialism in Iraq, al-Jaf was quick to respond.

“Do you think our only problem is with the Americans?” she asked, “No. We don’t just wasn’t America out of Iraq, we want Iran out of our affairs as well.”

While the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank has yet to react to the assassination, leaders of the Hamas and Islamic Jihad factions in Gaza set up a traditional mourning tent in Gaza for Soleimani, drawing widespread criticism from across the region for their support of the controversial figure.

“The martyrdom of Soleimani is a sign of pride and dignity in the face of America and the Zionist entity,” Secretary General of Islamic Jihad Ziad al-Nakhalah said, according to a statement from the group.

Both Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders expressed their gratitude for Soleimani’s support of the Palestinian people and resistance.

In Gaza, many Palestinians seemed to have mixed reactions to their leaders’ expressed support of Soleimani.

“I’m torn,” Anas Abu Shamala, 23, a student in Gaza City told Mondoweiss.

“Yes, Soleimani was a big supporter of the Palestinian resistance, but he also helped orchestrate the killing of hundreds thousands of our brothers in Syria. So a big part of me feels happy he is gone,” Abu Shamala said.

Abu Shamala said he also has mixed feelings about the mourning tent set up by political figures in Gaza.

“Mourning for and supporting Soleimani so publicly could come back to backfire on us in a bad way,” Abu Shamala said, noting that for now, it doesn’t seem like things will affect Gaza.

Such a public display of support, he said, has “proved the relationship between Gaza and Iran” and in the future could result in retaliation from “the forces in the region who are working against Iran, like Israel and the Gulf countries.”

Like Fararja and al-Jaf in Bethlehem, Abu Shamala says he and his friends, and the strangers he passes by during the day, have all been glued to their telephone and television screens.

“For the past few days everyone has been stuck to the news, trying to guess what will happen next,” he said.

Abu Shamala’s fellow student Muhammad Muneer, 23, told Mondoweiss that he was initially indifferent to the killing of Soleimani, but began to pay attention following the global media frenzy.

“I think the people are indifferent to his killing, but at the same time they’re interested in what’s going on politically, and the tensions between the US and Iran,” Muneer said.

“I don’t have much to say about Qasem Soleimani, but seeing the aftermath has forced me to pay attention and want to know more about what’s going on. And I think most Palestinians are like me,” he said,

Both Abu Shamala and Muneer said they hope that the situation does not escalate any further, but if it does, it is the fault of the Americans.

“Iran didn’t hurt the American soldiers, they didn’t kill anyone,” Muneer said of Iran’s retaliatory strikes on Wednesday morning. “So America shouldn’t retaliate and escalate the situation further.”

If the situation does continue to escalate, Abu Shamala hopes that the Iranian people will use it as an opportunity to “stop any infighting, and use this chance to stand together, united, against American imperialism on your land.”

Back in Bethlehem, Fararja echoes the sentiment of Abu Shamala in Gaza.

“The Americans came and wreaked havoc and destruction across the Middle East in the name of freedom and democracy,” Fararja told Mondoweiss, the tension rising in his voice.

“But today, when Iraq wants to use exercise their democracy and they vote for America to stay out of their affairs, America does not respect it. What kind of freedom is this?”

Fararja said that he doesn’t support Soleimani, but that as a Palestinian, “we stand with in solidarity with anyone who stands in the face of the Americans.”

“My message for the US is: leave our land, leave our countries, stop supporting oppression and occupation around the world, and begin actually supporting democracy and human rights,” he told Mondoweiss.

“We hope that the American people stand against their leaders who are going to war. Demand that your leaders stop the violence, take your soldiers home, and leave us to live on our land in peace.”

Khadija Hmeid contributed to this report from Gaza. 

Yumna Patel

Yumna Patel is the Palestine correspondent for Mondoweiss.

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6 Responses

  1. Misterioso on January 9, 2020, 10:28 am

    “Trump has Conducted a War on Iran for 19 Months; Iran finally Hit Back” Informed Comment, January 8/2020, by Juan Cole

    Ann Arbor – “The Iranian government replied to Trump’s assassination of Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani on Tuesday by firing some 15 ballistic missiles at Ain al-Assad base in al-Anbar Province and at another Iraqi base at Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan. The bases are Iraqi and mainly house members of the Iraqi military, but also host US troops. As of this writing very early Wednesday, there were no US deaths or casualties, but the Iranian press was claiming it had killed ’80 terrorists.’ [Update: There were no casualties.]

    “Notoriously flaky Sen. Lindsay Graham replied to the strikes saying that Iran had better ‘cut this crap out’ or it would be ‘out of the oil business.’ Rupert Murdoch-backed media poo-bah Sean Hannity also advocated striking Iran oil installations.

    “It is tragicomic that Graham and Hannity do not seem to realize that Trump already put Iran out of the oil business. Iran’s government feels that it has nothing to lose. Trump cut Iran’s exports from 2.5 million barrels a day in 2017 to a few hundred thousand barrels a day last fall. Petroleum receipts account for 70% of Iranian government revenue.

    “Trump began the war with Iran on May 8, 2018, when he breached the international treaty with Iran, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The treaty had forced Iran to mothball 80% of its civilian nuclear enrichment program, as a way of ensuring that the program was never militarized. In the three years leading up to the signing of the treaty, the Obama administration and the UN Security Council had put severe sanctions on Iran, which hurt the Iranian economy. In return for severely curtailing their enrichment program, the Iranians were promised that all sanctions would be lifted and that Iran would be integrated into the world economy. Trump breached the treaty even though the UN inspectors repeatedly certified that Iran was in full compliance with its obligations.

    “Trump then slapped the most severe economic sanctions on Iran ever applied to any country by another in peacetime. He strong-armed Japan, South Korea, Europe, and india into not buying Iranian petroleum and threatened companies throughout the world with Treasury Department third-party sanctions if they traded with Iran. No one wants to be excluded from the $22 trillion a year American economy or to be forced to pay billions of dollars in fines, so everyone, including Europe, fell into line behind Trump’s ‘maximum pressure.’

    “These were no longer sanctions but a financial blockade. If you blockade a country and prevent its trade with naval ships, that is an act of war in international law. Trump blockaded Iran with financial instruments, but it comes to the same thing. Trump has been at war with Iran for 19 months. The Iranian economy is a shadow of its former self. Middle class families can’t afford needed medicines for loved ones.

    “Trump’s blockade on Iran has not the slightest legitimacy. It was not mandated by an act of Congress. There is no UN Security Council resolution preventing Iran from selling its oil on the international market. It is the caprice of a single person, and violates international laws and norms.

    “I have pacifist tendencies and wish countries could work out their differences non-violently. But no country would accept this economic strangulation at the hands of another without striking back in some way, and Iran’s replies to Trump’s fingers around its wind pipe have brought us to this pass.

    “It is puzzling that Iran would hit Iraqi military bases. Iran is an Iraqi ally and helped this same Iraqi army in its fight against the hyper-Sunni terrorist organizations, ISIL (ISIS). Iran has taken revenge on the US for declaring the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, a government institution, a ‘terrorist organization.’ Tehran has in return branded the US military a ‘terrorist organization.’ Perhaps the Iranian press was saying it had killed 80 US troops, but this allegation is untrue. In fact, the Iranian missiles are quite precise and Iran has good intelligence on where US troops are, so the IRGC deliberately avoided killing Americans, which it easily could have.

    “The geography of the two bases hit may be politically significant. Al-Anbar is an almost entirely Sunni Arab province dominated by the Dulaim tribe. Erbil is the capital of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). The Sunni parties and the Kurdish parties boycotted last Sunday’s parliamentary vote to expel US troops. It is possible that Iran is sending these two blocs the message that it is not healthy for them to lobby to keep US troops in Iraq, and that if they do so they will be in the middle of a hot war. Hitting Erbil is otherwise hard to explain, since Iran and the Iraqi Kurds have generally good relations.

    “In any case, Iraqis are human beings as much as Americans and it is hard to feel much relief if in fact 80 of them were summarily blown away.

    “I was not expecting the Iranian government to hit out at the US so openly. Open conventional responses had not been its way of proceeding. My guess is that even the government of clerical leader Ali Khamenei was stunned at the magnitude of the public grief over the assassination of Gen. Soleimani, as millions came into the streets in the past couple of days. This fall there had been substantial unrest over a hike in gasoline prices, so the government may have liked the new solidarity of the people with it and become determined to capitalize on it by drawing out the conflict with Trump.

    “At the same time, the ayatollahs are riding a tiger. For the clerical government, having millions of angry people in the streets demanding revenge on the United States is a blessing and a curse. The newly-won solidarity could evaporate if the people felt as though they did not get a sufficiently harsh revenge. In fact, it isn’t clear that these missile strikes that did no real damage to the US will be sufficient to calm the Iranian masses down.

    “I think in the aftermath of these strikes, the government of Adil Abdulmahdi, Iraq’s prime minister, will be even more eager to expel US troops, lest Iran remain in the cross-fire between the US and Iran. Putting this pressure on Abdulmahdi is almost certainly one of the goals of the Iranian missile strikes.

    “There were 5,200 US troops in Iraq as the crisis began a week and a half ago, but several hundred appear to have been sent to Kuwait or will imminently be sent there. In a letter to the Iraqi government form the US military in Iraq, the American officers said that they wanted to
    ‘thin out’ US troop presence in Baghdad, where they fear attacks by Iraqi Shiite militias, in preparation for leaving the country in accordance with last Sunday’s parliamentary vote. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper on Tuesday disavowed the letter, calling it a ‘draft.’ Iraqi government officials, however, maintain that it was official, and that they even followed up about the Arabic translation, and that they will treat it as valid.”

    • Misterioso on January 9, 2020, 6:44 pm

      Needless to say, the phrase “lest Iran remain in the cross-fire between the US and Iran” should read “lest Iraq remain in the cross-fire between the US and Iran.”

  2. Hanna Kawas on January 9, 2020, 3:06 pm

    I am disappointed with Mondoweiss and with this report.
    What happened with Iran directly affects Palestinian liberation and the lives of Palestinians not only under occupation, but also all over the world.
    This Mondoweiss article has either cherry picked its witnesses or misunderstood the feelings of the Palestinian people.
    Representatives on the highest level from most (if not all) Palestinian resistance organizations including leftist organizations such as the PFLP, attended Soleimani’s funeral and met with high ranking Iranian officials and some went to give condolences to his wife and family.
    The vast majority of Palestinians support their liberation organizations and their positions on major issues.
    Even Abbas Zaki, a member of the Fatah executive committee, told Al-Mayadeen TV channel that Soleimani was the “Che Guevara of the Middle East”.

  3. HarryLaw on January 9, 2020, 3:13 pm

    Very poor responses from the voxpop, indifferent to the fate of Qasem Soleimani, one of the greatest defenders of the Palestinian resistance against Israel/US. “But he also helped orchestrate the killing of hundreds thousands of our brothers in Syria. So a big part of me feels happy he is gone,” Abu Shamala said”. Could they be the head choppers of ISIS and ALQeada financed by Saudi Arabia by any chance?
    “Such a public display of support, he said, has “proved the relationship between Gaza and Iran and in the future could result in retaliation from the forces in the region who are working against Iran, like Israel and the Gulf countries.” Then don’t resist, throw your lot in with the Saudis who are best friends with your mortal enemies, the Saudis would crush the Palestinians in a heartbeat it they could profit from it. The Palestinians must back the ‘arc of resistance’ Iran,Iraq,Syria, Lebanon and Yemen, to back Saudi Arabia is to back Israel/US, the wrong horse.

    • echinococcus on January 9, 2020, 11:54 pm


      You seem to forget that a preponderance of authors and perhaps commenters, too, here at Mondoweiss were, at least until recently, supporters of the US Empire side against Syria. It’s well known that there are many such in Palestine, too. So it shouldn’t be too hard to interview mainly people with similar sympathies.

      That’s of course the main reason why anecdotal interviews, with a “human interest”-moving tiny non-random sample being used to suggest a general conclusion, are not a valid way to report, and perhaps the real reason why they remain the main item on the menu of US journalism. .

    • andrew r on January 10, 2020, 1:07 am

      The Palestinians must back the ‘arc of resistance’ Iran,Iraq,Syria, Lebanon and Yemen, to back Saudi Arabia is to back Israel/US, the wrong horse.

      Anti-imperialists need to wake up and realize the neat, binary opposition between US-imperialism and the “Resistance Axis” doesn’t always hold water. To wit:

      ““Here’s our advice: hit them here first, and then hit them over here. And here’s the logic.” Stunned, Crocker asked, “Can I take notes?” The negotiator replied, “You can keep the map.” The flow of information went both ways. On one occasion, Crocker said, he gave his counterparts the location of an Al Qaeda facilitator living in the eastern city of Mashhad. The Iranians detained him and brought him to Afghanistan’s new leaders, who, Crocker believes, turned him over to the U.S. The negotiator told Crocker, “Haji Qassem is very pleased with our coöperation.”

      “After Saddam’s regime collapsed, Crocker was dispatched to Baghdad to organize a fledgling government, called the Iraqi Governing Council. He realized that many Iraqi politicians were flying to Tehran for consultations, and he jumped at the chance to negotiate indirectly with Suleimani. In the course of the summer, Crocker passed him the names of prospective Shiite candidates, and the two men vetted each one. Crocker did not offer veto power, but he abandoned candidates whom Suleimani found especially objectionable. “The formation of the governing council was in its essence a negotiation between Tehran and Washington,” he said.”

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